Good For You But Not For Me: There Are No Universal Truths In Pregnancy

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In the age of the Internet, it seems like the rules surrounding the “right” things to do when you’re pregnant have expanded exponentially. At the same time, the line between well-meaning advice and heated mommy-shaming sometimes seems to collapse.

So, welcome to your break from the chorus of “shoulds.” This is the pregnancy advice article where the only advice is to take it all with a grain of salt.

Nutrition

In one corner, you have the strict-pregnancy advocates. The ones who sternly warn that a growing baby is no excuse to “eat for two.” The ones with studies showing the risks of mercury in fish, miscarriage risk from excess caffeine, and Listeria lurking in a bite of Brie.

In the other corner, you have the lax parents-to-be. The ones urging you to relax, bringing up women in France who allegedly drink wine throughout pregnancy, and ordering as many deli meat sandwiches as they please.

Confession: I’ve been on both sides! I’ve learned doctors sometimes offer different recommendations (mine says sushi’s okay, yours may disagree). In my first pregnancy, I ate what I wanted. This time, I’m following advice to cut out sugar, white rice, and potatoes (yes, I miss fries).

Whether you’re under pressure to loosen up, or getting scrutiny for every bite, the mantra is the same: Good for you, but that’s not for me.

Exercise

Keeping active offers loads of benefits for you and the growing baby. At least, that’s the general wisdom, and often enough it’s true. Swimming or walking are usually safe, and some folks keep more strenuous activities, like weight-lifting and Crossfit, in their pregnancy routine.

There’s so much talk about staying active that it’s easy to skim over caveat words like “often,” “many,” and “generally.” You might not be one of the many people who benefit from pregnancy workouts! Conditions like high risk of preterm labor can mean resting–and giving your baby more time to grow in utero–is much healthier for you than hitting the gym.

Prepping for Baby

Confession time again: With weeks left to go, I have not painted a nursery. I don’t feel a “nesting” compulsion to clean. My hospital bag isn’t packed. We have essentials like a car seat, bassinet, and tiny outfits, but that’s about it.

“Babies don’t need much” might be your motto, too, or you might have a Pinterest-perfect nursery, with onesies folded to KonMari perfection. The good news is both sides are valid! Keeping babies loved, fed, and safe is the only universal preparation standard that matters. The rest? Good for you for knitting your own baby clothes–I’m taking another nap.

Bonding

Some new parents feel an overwhelming rush of love the instant they see their baby. A friend of mine described her reaction as closer to, “You’re definitely cute, but I need to get to know you.” Yet another admitted that, in the depths of sleep deprivation and nursing struggles, she wondered if she’d made a huge mistake.

Postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety don’t have anything to do with how “good” you are as a new parent. Everyone processes the physical, mental, and emotional adjustment of parenthood in their own way.

We said no advice, but here’s a perspective to consider that might be helpful. In the first few months, “love” is more of an action than a feeling. Every feeding, every diaper change, every bath and snuggle and nap on a clean, safe surface is an expression of love. Even if you feel like you’re going through the motions. You’ll have your own bonding experience with your baby, whether it happens immediately or over time, powerfully or gradually. There is no universal way to be a parent, and as long as you’re meeting your baby’s needs for food, touch, and safety, you’re doing a great job.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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